How to Talk about Addiction with Tweens

Kate Messner's new children's book, The Seventh Wish, is about Irish dancing, ice fishing, and a magical fish who grants wishes. But it's also about heroin addiction.

By some standards, our family is quite conservative. Sometimes we shelter our children from life's yuck. Sometimes we talk about it and live it. Other times we cannot protect our children, even when we want to. So it may surprise you how much I appreciate The Seventh Wish as a children's book.

In case you haven't noticed, addiction to heroin and pain killers (that kill) is rampant. It's no longer a back alley issue. Good people from good homes become addicted. It's the sad new reality. Though this post doesn't say exactly how to talk to your tween about addiction, I'm sharing a book which can be a tool to begin a conversation about it.

My oldest child is nine years old. For some, that would not be too young to share this book. I may wait until next year to share The Seventh Wish with her. (Affiliate link.)

Charlie is a regular ol' girl. She feels like she doesn't get the attention she wants. When she catches a fish it begs her in a raspy voice to let him live. In exchange, the fish grants a wish. She takes advantage and wishes for some good things but they don't always go as planned.

About halfway through the book Charlie and her parents learn of her sister, Abby's heroin addiction. Kate Messner expertly weaves the truths of addiction into a book appropriate for children. The emotions Charlie feels, I suspect, are spot-on for a (rather clueless) child dealing with the effects of a loved one experience addiction. The reader learns what rehabilitation might look like for the visitor at a rehab center and the struggles an addict has without any graphic content. Toward the end of the book, Charlie learns how a great person like Abby found herself addicted. It certainly didn't happen overnight.

Who is this book appropriate for? I'm not sure. Me. Teens, even if the main character is not yet a teen. The target audience is 8-13. An 8-year-old may need some help processing the book, but older readers wouldn't. It's not exactly a lighthearted book, but Kate Messner did not make this book dark either. It's not just about addiction. It's about Charlie. And it's realistic and appropriate.

Classroom teachers and school librarians may not want the parents of their students getting upset about the subject of addiction. But there are 8-year-olds who relate better to Charlie than Ramona Quimby or Anne Shirley. They need to know they're not alone. However it's read, I hope adults around the children will use The Seventh Wish to open up discussion about addiction. Also consider reading Kate Messner's post, Remember Who We Serve regarding the controversy regarding this book.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I earn a small percentage at no cost to you. Thank you!
~ Annette
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1 comment

  1. I had a read aloud I started with the kids once that dealt with child abuse. That was a hard one to get through.

    This sounds like a good book for helping a kid deal with someone they know being addicted.


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